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William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (abridged)

by Reed Martin & Austin Tichenor

Box Office Soon Open. 

 

 

 

 

 

Minn Wara z-Zipp

Minn Wara z-Zipp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUTHOR: Trevor Zahra

VENUE: Manoel Theatre

DATES: 28, 29, 30 March 2008

DIRECTOR: Chris Gatt

CAST: Renato Dimech, Snits, Jean Pierre Busuttil

SUMMARY: Men get that extra bit in life. Trevor Zahra’s play investigates which bit. This is Unifaun’s first play in Maltese and debut at the Manoel Theatre. A hilarious script from Trevor Zahra portraying men’s anxieties and whims.

WHAT THE PRESS SAID:

Landing back in Malta, I went straight to watch a play. I didn’t know what to expect from Minn Wara ż-Żipp. I guess I was intrigued as to why Unifaun, earning a reputation for unconventional plays, would want to put on such a play.

Vagina Monologues it ain’t, but through various sketches it takes the audience on a journey of the different lives of a penis. This was not a poignant piece, apart from a short sequence, but it was raw and very, very funny, and the Maltese language flowed really nicely. All three actors excelled in this theatre genre, changing characters (or penises?) with great ease, but Snits takes the biscuit - he just got funnier as the show went on.

He’s a master of comic movement - his imitation of Michael Jackson had me desperately reaching out for my inhaler. And judging by the packed audience everyone, or almost everyone, had a whale of a time. Now if only the Manoel or other venues would pack them in for other stuff - wouldn’t that just be wonderful.

Charlotte Stafrace — Showtime, 2 May 2008

 

X'HEMM WARA Z-ZIPP?

Skond Trevor Zahra, l-awtur ta’ MINN WARA Ż-ŻIPP (UNIFAUN THEATRE) mhux ż..b, jew firillu (mhux firilla għax dik biċċa tal-baħar), jew p..a jew xi ż-ż..b trid issejjaħ lill-organu sesswali tar-raġel li hu meqjus ukoll bħala simbolu falliku li minn żminijiet imbegħda kien jindika saħħa, virilità, dominanza, poter u qawwa?

Iżda skond din il-kummiedja soċjali li rawha ħafna nies fi tmiem il-gimgħa li għaddiet, il-firillu (se nagħżel li nibqa’ nsejjaħlu hekk kif għamel il-kittieb u t-tliet atturi) jista’ jkun imdejjaq, ferħan, attiv, nofsu mejjet jekk mhux mejjet għal kollox. Jista’ jkun mistiku imma anke mistifikat, aljenat, imqareb, imbarazzanti u imbarazzat mill-imġiba ta’ sidu – bħal ma hu jista’ jimbarazzah min-naħa tiegħu. Jista’ jkun sakran jekk sidu jkun sakranazz, imma jaf anke jingħata l-attenzjoni kollha hu waqt li sidu jibqa’ mejjet għal bewsa, għal kelma ħelwa, għal ftit attenzjoni! Jew l-ieħor li jħossu mweġġa’ u offiż għax sidu ħlief jidgħi bih ma jagħmilx – haqq iż-ż.. ‘l hinn , haqq iz-z.. ‘lhawn!! Skond il-kittieb l-organu ta’ wara ż-żipp jaf ikun ta’ qisien differenti, ta’ ħeġġa differenti, ta’ karattru differenti. Jaf jitkellem hu flok sidu, ifisser id-dwejjaq, il-ferħ, il-biza’ u l-arroganza. Jaf jintuża mill-awtur biex waqt li jdaħħaq – u dahk kien hemm kemm trid fit-teatru – inissel demgħa fejn hemm l-allegrija u bil-maqlub, jislet tbissima minn sitwazzjonijiet serji.

Bħax-xiħ li wara li jara l-miraklu tal-Viagra jaħdem fuqu –Alla jbierek! – jinsa għal xiex kien jużah u x’kien jagħmel bih! Bħall-ieħor li jużah biss għall-pipì u jqum xi għoxrin darba matul il-lejl biex jagħmel biss xi erba’ qatriet! Bħall-ieħor li jgħid lill-mara li l-Viagra reġgħet tagħtu potenza ġdida u għalhekk jistgħu jerġgħu jaqbdu l-istess ritmu ta’ dari biex bħal qabel jerga’ jisma’ l-martu tgħidlu li kellha uġigħ ta’ ras!

Bħat-tfajjel ikkonfondut għax ma jafx x’qed jiġrilu waqt li qed jikber u li jsib lir-reverendu jipprova jbegħdu mit-triq tad-dnub! Bħal ġuvni jipprova jilbes condom iżda ma jirnexxilux bir-riħultat jidher disa’ xhur wara! U sitwazzjonijiet oħra li ftit li xejn nitkellmu dwarhom għallinqas fil-pubbliku – masturbazzjoni, mard venerju, impotenza u elf ħaġ’oħra li joħorġu mill-kitba ta’ Trevor Zahra u r-reċtar tat-tliet atturi maskili li hawn tajjeb li nsemmihom – Snits, Renato Dimech u Jean Pierre Busuttil, tliet atturi komiċi li xejn ma ddejqu – għallinqas hekk dehru – li jwasslu suġġetti u temi delikati bħal dawn. It-tlieta kienu tajbin imma għalija spikka Jean Pierre Busuttil li kien ċar, eżatt u préċis. Is-Snits ukoll hu attur komiku mill-aqwa u faqa’ l-kulħadd bid-daħk meta imita lil Michael Jackson u meta irrapreżenta firillu bid-dipressjoni, bil-ġlekk u beritta safra fuq rasu. Liema ras?! L-unika kritika hi li f’xi waqtiet ma bediex jinstema’ sew, l-ewwelnett għax għandu leħnu żgħir u t-tieninett għax in-nies lanqas tawh wisq ħin bid-daħk li bdew ifaqqgħu. Renato Dimech għamel xi ftit żbalji apparenti wisq, forsi jħossu izjed komdu jirreċta bl-Ingliż? B’daqshekk ma rridx infisser li t-tlieta ‘were not up to it’ (ifhmuha kif tridu). Biss biss l-istamina li wrew kienet ammirevoli, sagħtejn sħaħ kontinwament fuq il-palk għax dan ix-xogħol kienet f’att wieħed biss, bit-tlieta li huma impenjati bla waqfien.

Fil-produzzjoni, li kienet diretta minn Chris Gatt, intuza skrin li fuqu dehret informazzjoni ta’ natura pjutost empirika u informattiva.

Adrian Buckle ta’ Unifaun Theatre kiteb li dan ix-xogħol jirrifleti s-soċjetà li ngħixu fiha. Jiġifieri qed ngħixu f’soċjetà taż-Ż…?

JOYCE GUILLAUMIER — TORĊA, 6 APRIL 2008

 

If the saying about women, men, fish and bicycles and their need for eachother holds true, then a female reviewing a play which has, at its epicentre, the male jingly-jangly bits, might seem as incongruous as a guppy listing the merits and demerits of the latest mountain bike. In my defence, I could say that I am one of the few oestrogen–recycling beings who always insisted that there should be a “Happy Man’s Day” and that I think that the arguement for this grave omission from our festive calendar, that ‘every day is man’s day’, doesn’t quite wash. Luckily, Unifaun Theatre’s Production of Trevor Zahra’s Play in Maltese “Minn Wara iz-Zipp” was truly a rapturous delight for both those originating from Mars as well as from Venus.

This play was initially touted as a testosterone-fuelled shot at the Vagina Monologues, which I have never seen, but I can safely say that it did possess a quality which the female three-hander, translated into several languages already, surely could never have : that of being animated by a 100 per cent, home- grown flavour and humour as Maltese as the fare that buznanna would have left to simmer on her tektieka (stove). It was these particular moments, and there were many, that elicited the most raucous response from the audience who instantly zeroed-in on the familiarity of the situation, rather than the segments where the author attempted to go global (even going as far as to give his stalwarts a triumphant ‘Men-of-the-World-Unite’ type anthem, reprised in the Finale!).

That “Zipp” was all-out to push the boundaries of accepted irreverence was made all too clear from the start: the shock value of hearing the richly-enunciated Maltese vernacular for the male reproductive organ by Snits, who together with Renato Dimech and Jean Pierre Bususttil, made up the titillating triumvirate under Chris Gatt’s sharp direction, was priceless. Unused, as most of the audience were, to hearing this zinging monosyllable resound in the most un-obscene confines of the Manoel Theatre, the admission caused an uproar! However, once the novelty of the sheer awkwardness of hearing what would have gotten our great aunt’s eyes and ears in a twist wore off, as the word was bandied around often enough thereafter, its use was never gratituous nor did the play ever degenerate into the vulgar and tasteless terrain of some farces of old involving the Village Priest and the new Niece on the Block! It was, in all respects,totally upfront in calling a spade a spade even if I suspect most of us, by now used to a smattering of four-letter expletives in British or American theatre, are somewhat perturbed at hearing the language of the streets hurtle past our native ears and would still rather expect a play in Maltese to include the word “skuzi-xkupa”!

One of the play’s flaws was that, aside from the above concession, it tried too hard not to offend anyone. This overly-cautious (but totally understandable) approach was sounded out at the very start of the evening. There were no dimming of lights in the theatre when the three protagonists walked on and we had much deliberate hemming and hawing and passing of the hot potato of responsibility to ascertain who among the actors was going to tell the audience something on the lines of “Warning: The Content Of This Play Could Seriously Tweak the Uptight Attitude of the More Retentive Among You!” . This persisted throughout the play where, for instance, the author steered clear of using a local politician to demonstrate a Freudian theory about a man’s family jewels and the length and shape of his tie in one of the projections and used the British Conservative David Cameron instead; the rather lukewarm representation of the homosexual part of the equation in the male universe, (the ostracized “lebbruz” of yesteryear to the husband-and-father-of-two with his dark desires festering in the closet, still unhappily a very contemporary scenario); the strange omission of our very own Luqa roundabout erection among the plethora of phallic constructions and obelisks around the planet;and for hell’s sake, managing to offend the sensibilities of the notoriously sensitive “wimmin folk” present in the audience that night only once with a dig at women trying to push men totally out of the picture! A bit more fanning of the flames would not have gone amiss I assure you. Ok, that just about gets all the so-so points out of the way as the rest of the play, once all the proverbs, metaphors and Aquilina’s Dictionary were exhausted in the intro, was a scream!

The Tale of the Male was narrated in chapter format with the use of projections, starting off from the “spot the blot on the landscape” of the early scan to the sizing-up of Baby Redeemer’s considerable “Alla jbierek!” attributes by a legion of family members. The pre-pubescent stage of little Deemer and his subsequent transition from startled ingenué to lust-ridden teenager with a penchant for Pammie Andersen’s rounded bits were excellently played out by Renato Dimech interacting with his fellow thesps in narrator-mode.

In his book, “Impotence, A Cultural History”, Angus McLaren states : “What at first glance might seem a bizarre view of the body’s workings can – when placed in its cultural context - reveal itself as a rational and understandable reflection of the society’s values.” To denote this, Zahra rounded up the long history of male genitalia and its bearing on society through the ages using everyone, from Bernini to Freud, but it was in describing the exquisite and powerful form of Benvenuto Cellini’s “Perseus Beheading Medusa” sculpture that his lush use of language came out in force to a vibrantly poetic effect. Unfortunately, the actors did have to slow down the pace here somewhat, becoming slightly schoolmarmish in their delivery and analysis of the Phallic Progress through the centuries.

Thankfully, before the pedantic manner could stall the pace altogether, it livenend up considerably thanks to the Several Male Stereotypes (James Bond/Wacko Jacko/Mr Bean) in the process of relieving their bladder, which brought the house down. Had the notoriously frisky George Michael found himself with the turbo-charged Bruce Lee or the ominously cloaked Darth Vader, (another two of the stereotypes thrown in the fray), as a urinal-buddy, I assure you he would have thought twice about whipping out his tackle with lecherous intent, and tucked it back safely within the confines of his Dark Side before you could say “Light Sabre”.We also had a mad carousel involving a motely crew of appendages with a variety of afflictions : the Droopy Ding Dong; the Sneezing Shaft; the Mystical Member; the Demented Droop; the Emancipated Eel..the list was endless and hilariously depicted but I’m running out of euphemisms!

All the light-hearted frolic was however punctutated with just as many serious and poignant moments such as the President of Haiti’s lament upon sensing the shadow of the Grim Reaper at the door and whose own family and citizens have been decimated by AIDS or the expounding of prostate problems and bladder dysfunction. Any lingering heaviness was soon dispelled by the laughs that JP Busuttil’s Very well endowed Black American brought with him in recounting how he felt a tad left out when his fiery Agnes began to focus her attention exclusively below the navel; Renato Dimech’s “l’Ghawdxi” extolling the virtues of Viagra in his twilight years and his plea for it to be distributed free along with his “koylesteryol” pills and Snit’s Fgura Romeo and his Juliet, both car enthusiasts in the throes of experimentation who, thanks to a “condo” glitch, end up having to cater for a Mini Minor nine months’ later.

The wild and wonderful tour of “Minn wara z-Zipp” ground to a halt with an Ode to the Age of Viagra and the wise words that, ultimately, it is best not to meddle with (Mother) Nature, that there is a time for everything and a reason for every season, and – if one was attentive during the Freudian segment – also a reason why the author Trevor Zahra took his bow to a well-deserved applause with his tongue firmly in cheek and his tie clasped securely in hand!

Yasmine Nuvoli — Times of Malta April 2008

pictures by Joseph A. Borg